Super Rugby
Hill in pole position to replace Cooper
ESPNscrum Staff
February 18, 2012
An injured Quade Cooper acknowledges the Eden Park crowd, Rugby World Cup, Australia v Wales, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, October 21, 2011
Quade Cooper has been out of action since injurying his knee at the Rugby World Cup © Getty Images
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Reds head coach Ewen McKenzie has hinted that Mike Harris will deputise for the injured Quade Cooper in the early stages of this season's Super Rugby competition.

The New Zealander has been vying with Ben Lucas to fill the vacancy created by Cooper's knee injury but took a big step to securing the No.10 shirt with a strong showing in the Reds' 40-10 trial victory over Western Force.

Harris, who joined the franchise at the beginning of last season, missed his first shot at goal but went on to land 15 points with three penalties and three conversions. His performance appears to have put him in pole position to replace Cooper, who is not due to return until round seven.

"He kicked very well - he missed his first goal kick since he's been with us but he kicked everything else," McKenzie told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"I haven't decided yet [who will start at No.10]. But he [Harris] did a pretty good job. He did more with the ball. He just looked like he was comfortable enough there and tried things. That's what we want.

"I'd never sit there and tell the playmaker not to do things. You want them to play and express themselves how they do it. He's playing his game, he wasn't trying to play like someone else. He bought his skills to the table in the format of how we play. I think he looks very comfortable in that space now."

Lucas was given an opportunity at No.10 late on and McKenzie was similarly impressed.

"Ben Lucas had a crack. He played at halfback in the second half and went to five-eighth at the end. He looked good. We've got some options there, which is what we want," McKenzie said.

Waratahs coach Michael Foley down played injuries to Berrick Barnes and Damien Fitzpatrick after their 52-0 trial match win over Tonga. Barnes ran off in the 32nd minute to have his groin strapped while hooker Fitzpatrick limped off with a dead leg.

''Pretty much anybody that took a little bit of a knock tonight that could have got worse, we replaced them pretty quickly,' said Foley. '''There's a couple of niggles that will be assessed but we actually got through without anything [serious] so that's a good thing."

Elsewhere, the Crusaders came from behind to beat the Melbourne Rebels 19-14 in a pre-season trial match at AAMI Park in Melbourne. The Rebels led 14-7 at the break after tries from No.8 Gareth Delve and James O'Connor, who later departed from the action with a dead leg. However two tries from All Black Israel Dagg and one from Adam Whitelock gave the Crusaders victory.

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